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I spy a new career for self-aware teachers

Jet-setting, espionage and national security are not normally associated with a career in the classroom - despite teachers' constant battle to make lessons more exciting - but that looks set to change.

MI5 bosses are hoping teachers will switch to protecting the safety of Queen and country and are targeting school staff as part of their latest recruitment drive.

The secretive agency, which aims to "frustrate" terrorism, detect foreign espionage and stop other countries creating weapons of mass destruction, says it believes teachers already have the skills needed to be involved in intelligence gathering.

A large advert placed in this week's TES says teachers' daily experience of dealing with people means they could be "ideal" operational intelligence officers.

"Your experience of dealing with people means you can build trust and relationships with all sorts of individuals, which makes you the ideal candidate for developing a career securing the information we need to protect national security," the advert says.

But those at the chalkface might not be overly tempted by MI5 pay. The job has a salary of Pounds 35,425, depending on skills and experience - around the same as asecondary teacher a few years into the job.

Operational intelligence officers are at the heart of the UK's spy network. They are responsible for developing contacts and cultivating informants. They must be able to build a rapport quickly with a wide range of people.

Good communication skils are essential. The officers have to collect information from spies, then write reports for security bosses.

MI5 says self-awareness and sensitivity are essential. Officers will be based in London, but will frequently work out of the office and endure antisocial hours.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "There are a wide range of career opportunities available with MI5. The organisation advertises in a range of media, including local, regional and national newspapers, trade publications and online media, in order to attract a diverse range of candidates who may have the right skills and experience."

Further details on MI5 careers can be found on its website.

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